The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This year, to coincide with the observance of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, sustainable tourism has been chosen as the theme for Biodiversity Day. The theme reflects both the value of biodiversity for tourism, and the role of well-managed tourism in helping to protect wildlife and biodiversity values.


According to the Convention for Biological Diversity: “Biodiversity, at the level of species and ecosystems, provides an important foundation for many aspects of tourism. Recognition of the great importance to tourism economies of attractive landscapes and a rich biodiversity underpins the political and economic case for biodiversity conservation. Many issues addressed under the Convention on Biological Diversity directly affect the tourism sector. A well-managed tourist sector can contribute significantly to reducing threats to, and maintain or increase, key wildlife populations and biodiversity values through tourism revenue.”

The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development shows how tourism is identified in three of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a valuable contributor to all 17 goals. Similarly, tourism relates to many of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. For some Targets (for example 5, 8, 9, 10 and 12) this is primarily about ensuring greater control and management to reduce damage to biodiversity from tourism. For others (1, 11, 15, 18, and 20) this is about pursuing the positive contribution of tourism to biodiversity awareness, protected areas, habitat restoration, community engagement, and resource mobilization. A further dimension is the better integration of biodiversity and sustainability into development policies and business models that include tourism, thereby supporting Aichi Biodiversity Targets 2 and 4.

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) participated in the UN Biodiversity Conference COP13, in Cancun, Mexico last December. Speaking at the conference opening, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said: “Tourism and biodiversity are natural allies and UNWTO is fully committed to its joint work with the Convention of Biological Diversity. Tourism can highly contribute to the protection of biodiversity, by raising awareness, by engaging the tourism community and by proposing sustainable alternatives for local communities.”

Without proper and responsible management, tourism can of course be a threat to the environment and biodiversity. Clearing mangroves and forests for hotel development, extraction of scarce water resources, and use of potentially invasive alien species in hotel gardens, are all examples of poor practice which can threaten biodiversity. But conversely, wildlife tourism and other forms of ecotourism puts a value on wildlife and habitats which provides an incentive for communities to protect them. Tourists will pay a lot of money to watch whales and dolphins, see turtles hatching on beaches, or view charismatic wildlife species such as tigers in India or gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda. Properly managed, such tourism can provide incomes to local communities for generations, making it more valuable to protect the species than to hunt whales or log a forest.

The CAB Abstracts database has almost 100,000 records on biodiversity, including over 1700 on biodiversity and tourism. Information on tourism and biodiversity is included on our Leisure Tourism internet resource, while the Environmental Impact website also covers wider aspects of biodiversity and habitats. A small selection of papers which can be found on our websites is listed below. Among relevant papers, Siikamaki et al. (2015) report that Finnish national parks with high biodiversity values are more attractive for visitors than parks with lower biodiversity values, providing evidence on the direct linkage between biodiversity protection and the provisioning of ecosystem services in protected areas. Hausmann et al. (2017) discuss how to promote and support biodiversity conservation at South African sites where charismatic megafauna may not be present. Amin (2016) discusses whether economic incentives such as biodiversity targeted international transfers as well as tourism revenues have an impact on biodiversity conservation policies in sub-Saharan Africa. Grunewald et al. (2016) suggest that with an ecosystem management approach in South African national parks, biodiversity conservation can be successful while securing wildlife tourism and its revenues.

The Convention of Biological Diversity published a manual on biodiversity and tourism development in 2015 – click here to access the PDF file.

Further Reading

Amin, A., 2016. Exploring the role of economic incentives and spillover effects in biodiversity conservation policies in sub-Saharan Africa. Ecological Economics, Vol, 127, pp. 185-191. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.03.018 

Grünewald, C.; Schleuning, M.; Böhning-Gaese, K., 2016. Biodiversity, scenery and infrastructure: factors driving wildlife tourism in an African savannah national park. Biological Conservation, Vol. 201, pp. 60-68. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.05.036 

Hausmann, A.; Slotow, R.; Fraser, I.; Minin, E. di, 2017. Ecotourism marketing alternative to charismatic megafauna can also support biodiversity conservation. Animal Conservation, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 91-100. DOI: 10.1111/acv.12292 

Mbaiwa, J. E., Kolawole, O. D., 2013, Tourism and biodiversity conservation: the case of community-based natural resource management in Southern Africa., CAB Reviews, Vol. 8, No. 010, pp. 1-10. DOI: 10.1079/PAVSNNR20138010 

Siikamäki, P., Kangas, K., Paasivaara, A., Schroderus, S., 2015, Biodiversity attracts visitors to national parks., Biodiversity and Conservation, Vol. 24, No. 10, pp. 2521-2534. DOI: 10.1007/s10531-015-0941-5 

Teelucksingh, S. S., Watson, P. K., 2013, Linking tourism flows and biological biodiversity in Small Island Developing States (SIDS): evidence from panel data., Environment and Development Economics, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 392-404. DOI: 10.1017/S1355770X13000120 

Tolvanen, A., Kangas, K., 2016, Tourism, biodiversity and protected areas – review from northern Fennoscandia., Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 169, pp. 58-66. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.12.011

1 Comment

  1. maggie mungania on 29th June 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Wonderful idea that would help conserve environment at the same time promoting tourism.

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